Nearly $100K Raised In Tips For Starbucks Employee

(image via GoFundMe)

The GoFundMe campaign for a San Diego-area Starbucks employee who asked a ‘Karen’ to wear a face mask has now surpassed more than $99,000. And the crunchy ‘Karen’ now wants half of the funds raised.

As Instinct reported last week, yoga instructor Amber Lynn Gilles snapped a photo of the barista and posted it on Facebook in an attempt to shame him for following the safety guidelines of his employer and the state of California.


But the snarky post backfired on Gilles and has now raised nearly $100K in ‘tips’ for the beleaguered barista.

On June 18, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order requiring face coverings in public spaces as new coronavirus cases began to rise dramatically in the Golden State.

But this ‘San Diego Karen’ was clearly not happy about the new public health rule.

“Meet lenen [sic] from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask,” wrote Gilles in the accompanying caption. “Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.”


Since last week, the post has been shared more than 50K times and received over 132K comments, overwhelmingly in support of the barista, Lenin.

“Listen, Karen, if you can’t be bothered to wear a f**king mask for 10 minutes out of consideration for *other people* AND because it’s store policy, then you’re not only rude, you’re incredibly selfish,” wrote one commenter. “News flash: everything isn’t about you.”

“There’s no reason to publicly shame a kid who’s trying to work his shift like any other day,” added another.

One person asked, “If you cannot wear a mask, why not go through the drive-through?”


Facebook user Matt Cowan saw the post and decided to set up a GoFundMe page to collect tips for Lenin.

“I set it at $1,000, thinking that was a reach, and we would be lucky if we hit like $250,” Cowan told local news station 10News in San Diego last week. “And when we hit $100, I was overwhelmed by that,” 

In one day, Cowan’s campaign – titled “Tips for Lenin Standing Up To A San Diego Karen” – had raised more than $5,000 for Lenin. Over the past week, tips continued to pour in, and as of this writing, the campaign had raised over $99,000 from 7,400+ donors. The majority of the contributions were in the amount of $5 or $10.

(image via GoFundMe)

Lenin expressed his thanks in a Facebook video and shared his side of the story saying he was just following company policy when he asked Gilles if she had a face mask.

“Before I could say anything she flipped me off and said I don’t need one and she started cursing up a storm,” said Gutierrez on the video. “She started calling people sheep and she left and within a few minutes came back and she asked for my name and took a photo.”

Gutierrez also shared that, before the coronavirus health threat, he had taught dance to children. 

“That’s all I really want to do — to just be able to show dance to others and show them how much I love it and how much it affected me,” he said. “And if I can show that to someone else, that would be amazing and change their life like it changed mine.”


In an update to the crowdfunding page, Cowan underscored that Lenin will be receiving 100% of the funds from the campaign. A financial adviser has been arranged to help Lenin “plan how to properly invest and use the large sum of money.”

“Lenin has said that he plans to use some of the money to pursue his dreams of becoming a dancer,” Cowan added. “He also wants to donate to some organizations in the San Diego community.”

In a video shared by local NBC News affiliate KNSD-TV, Gilles claimed she was “denied and discriminated against” in the incident, and says since her post went live she’s received ‘thousands’ of death threats. Gilles also admitted she is an anti-vaxxer and believes masks are ineffective. 


“I didn’t harass anyone,” she says in the video. “I called them out because I’m frustrated.”

Gilles also says that she plans on suing Cowan for defamation and slander, AND she wants at least half the money raised through the GoFundMe campaign “because they’re using me to get it.”

For its part, Starbucks issued a statement asking all customers to follow the current guidelines regarding mask requirements.

“We want everyone to feel welcome in our stores. We respectfully request customers follow social distancing and safety protocols recommended by public health officials, including wearing a facial covering when visiting our stores,” a Starbucks spokesperson said.

(source: KNSD, GoFundMe)

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